Monday, December 25, 2017

5 Things to Buy at After-Christmas Sales

I love after Christmas sales.  They can offer some of the best prices of the year on a day where I rarely have any holiday plans, and I love that I don't have to get up at 5 am to take advantage of them.  Here are some of my favorite things to get on December 26th.

1.  Holiday Decor and Gift Wrap
I buy nearly all of our holiday decor on December 26th.  Holiday items will be 50% off or MORE, so it's really the perfect time to shop for it.   Since all of this year's decor is still up, its a great time to assess what you would like to change, replace, or improve on for next year, and get all that shopped for before you pack it away in January.

But don't just think of things for next Christmas.  Consider other upcoming holidays.   Usually packs of plain red, white, and green Christmas tissue will be on sale with the rest of the Christmas wrap, which can be used for Valentines and St. Patrick's day too!   I stock up on that stuff this time of year.  Look also for sparkly wrap in gold or silver that could work for birthday wrapping paper, and if you have a little girl that loves Elsa, snatch up anything with silvery or sparkly blue snowflakes for future gift wrapping (as well as snowflake garlands and ornaments and even tinsel for Frozen party decor!)  

2. Holiday Candy
Candy tastes as good no matter what it is wrapped in, so I sometimes buy a few "after Christmas" well as some candy for New Year's parties, where  "Christmas Specific" designs are still acceptable.   Last year I found several candy items that were easy to repurpose for other February and March parties.  Warning, while Chocolate items should be good til Valentines if stored in a cool dry place, they may not last until St. Patrick's and definitely aren't worth saving until easter.  Hard candy, however, can be saved for much longer (though I wouldn't stash it away for next year).  Look for red and green plastic or tin candy boxes with easy to remove "holiday" overwrap, or bags of candy where the only holiday markings are on the outer bag (like the Cherry Cordial Kisses Wrapped in Pink Foil, included in the Christmas candy sale because they had snowflakes on the outer bag).   And, there's several brands of holiday candy in plain red and green foil wrappers, which can be sorted out for Valentines and St. Patrick's day.   You can also find fun cartoon character and movie themed stocking stuffer candy tins on sale even without holiday markings, which I'm saving for Easter Baskets (or you can eat the candy now and refill at easter if its soft candy). It's a good idea to consider what candy needs you might have for homeschool projects.  This is a good time of the year to stock up for gumdrops for candy molecules at co-op, and things like that. 

3.  Gifts For Easter Baskets and Upcoming Birthdays
There are lots of stocking stuffers which are un-Christmassy enough to use as party favors or Easter basket  filler (especially Cartoon Character and Movie themed items).  And while toys and gifts may be a little picked over you can still find some great buys on Dec 26th Sales.  Don't forget to shop online too--there's some amazing online sales this time of year.  

4.  Next Year's Holiday Outfits
It's a little risky trying to predict what size your kids will be next Christmas (especially with very small children), but things like Christmas sweaters tend to be a little more forgiving if you guess larger, and if you have a larger family buying a few extra sizes to hand down doesn't hurt.

5.  Christmas Cards
I admit I haven't sent Christmas cards for several years now, but back when I did I ALWAYS bought them a year ahead for half off or more.

What are your favorite things to buy December 26th?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Story of the World Ancient Times - Chap 11 - Africa

Photo of Saharan Rock art by  David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This post contains some affiliate links through which I can earn commission.

This chapter of Story of the World was called "Africa," but it could have been called "The Mysterious disappearance of the Green Sahara!"    (Wouldn't that have made a great title?!)

I got to do the lesson for this chapter at our co-op...which was a little intimidating, since ancient Africa, outside of Egypt, is a subject I knew very little about.   So I dug in and researched, and had so much fun sharing what I'd learned.

Section 1:  Ancient Peoples of West Africa

First, here's what we did at home during the reading.

NOTE:  Paragraph notes are for the REVISED version of Story of the World, Volume 1.   The original may have a different number of paragraphs.

Paragraph 1-5
I really like how the text guides kids to trace out paths on the map with their finger...we did this, and as always, putting actions to words really helped keep my child engaged.

Paragraph 6 - 10
When it got to the part about the paintings people left behind them (par. 8), I brought up this Pinterest board I had put together on my phone and we stopped and looked at some of the pictures, and talked about them.  I asked my son what type of animals he could tell they had from the pictures.   I included this picture to show what that area looks like now, and asked him if he thought those animals could survive in a place like that.  We talked about how that's one way they knew the Sahara used to be different. 

We followed up by watching a portion of a video about ancient Nubia (see the activities section below).

The Science Behind It
If you're curious WHY the Sahara turned Green, Scientists have a theory:   they think it was due to a change in the Earth's tilt.    You can read more about it in this article in Astrobiology, a online magazine sponsored by NASA. 

Sections 2 - 3:   Anansi and Turtle, Anansi and the Make Believe Food

At home, we read Ananse's Feast, a children's book we found in our local library, in stead of "Anansi and Turtle" in Story of the World.  It tells the same tale, and has charming pictures with African cultural details.  If I had more time, I think I would have tried to cook some of the traditional food mentioned in the story for an extra activity.

Now, even if you can't find this book, there's a good chance you will be able to find some of the Anansi stories at your library (though we didn't find the second story about the Make Believe Food, which I ended up just skipping.)  Searching for these folk tales can be a bit tricky, though, because there are various spellings of the African names involved (Anansi was spelled "Ananse" in the storybook we found, and some versions of these tales just call him "Spider." )  And if you're searching under Ashanti folktales it gets worse--I've seen it spelled Asante, Asanti, etc..  So, I suggest just finding your library's section on African folktales, and look for ones featuring spiders. That's how I found this book.



I found a  video which covers the green Sahara drying up, and also the early days of Nubia (or Kush), from BEFORE the Egyptians invaded to the end of the Kingdom when it succumbed to the desert.  We watched the sections from 4:20-14:20 (see chart below), both at home and at co-op.   The kids at co-op really liked the part about the Rock Gong, and they liked seeing the rock art.  I had included the part about Kerma, even though it was stepping into things from chapter was such a fascinating structure to me, and my son had liked learning about it at home, so I wanted to share it with the kids at co-op.  But, at co-op, the kids sort of lost interest at this point.  I guess 10 minutes is a long time to hold attention on a documentary when there's friends to talk with nearby.

Lost Kingdoms of Africa: Nubia (Covers Sahara civilization too).
I went ahead and charted out the minutes for your convenience below, in case you just wanted to use parts of this, as we did...

0 - 4:20 - Intro
4:20 -  7:41 - Rock Gong, beginning of Nubian culture
7:42 - 10:56 - Rock Art and Climate Change (When the Sahara Was Green)
10:56 - 14:20 - Kerma (main city in Kush/Nubia) and Deffufa (huge brick structure)
14:20 - 16:48  - Kerma Pottery
16:49 - 21:41 - Kerma Burial Plot
21:42 - 21:45 - What Happened to Kerma (transition)
21:45 - 26:34 - Egyptian Invasion/Jebel Barkal
26:35 - 29:19 - Sufi Mystics Today at Jebel Barkal
29:20 - 34:40 - Nubians Regain Rule/Tarharka Dynasty
34:41 - 38:43 - Desert Encroaches/Meroe
38:44 - 40:56 - Iron
40:56 - 41:58 - Desert Encroaches Again
41:59 - 45:41 - Nomads
45:42 - End   - Central Sudan (Modern Times)

We used more of this next chapter, which talks more about ancient Nubia.

African Homes Exploration & Craft

Picture of houses  in Nakpanduri, Ghana by Hugues

I decided to make traditional African round house model for our co-op craft,  (a craft I found in this book, which has a large section on Nubia. ).   Even though it doesn't connect directly with Saharan Africa, since we don't know what kind of structures, if any, the people there had, roundhouses seem to be ubiquitous throughout a large area of Africa (I found examples in many, many African countries).  But mostly I chose it because it was the one idea I had that my son actually liked.

Before we started the craft, I wanted to show the kids some examples of some traditional African round-houses actually being used today. But, I didn't want to perpetuate the stereotype that all people in Africa still live in these types of homes, so I filled up a pinterest page not just with the traditional grass roofed round-houses, but  modern houses and buildings in various countries in Africa as well.  I'm so glad I did.  The kids were fascinated by the variety of houses I showed them.  Some were really surprised to learn that African cities had skyscrapers.  Worldviews were expanded, and that made my day.

The craft itself, however, was a flop.  When I brought out the clay and other supplies to actually make some hut models, only two of  the kids were interested, and even they gave up half way through making them. Even my own son, who had helped me choose the craft, didn't want to do it.  Turns out he thought we would be making a LIFE SIZED ONE (insert eyeroll here).

Random Related Star Wars Trivia

Tataoine buildings picture by Ksar ouledsoltane06
Berber Grain Silos in Tataouine, Tunisia
Photo by Asram (Self-photographed) via Wikimedia Commons 

Found out something pretty cool while browing those buildings on pinterest.  The buildings above are from a town in the middle of the Sahara called Tataouine...and yes, if that sounds a lot like Tatooine, the Star Wars planet, it's because it's name and style of buildings did inspire Tatooine in Star Wars. George Lucas didn't do any filming there but did do some in another nearby Tunisian town.

Books to Follow This Rabbit Trail
Here are two books you might consider if you want to follow-up by learning more about houses all over the world, not just Africa...

If You Lived Here:  Houses of the World
I have not read this one--I found a post about it on the blog Our Unschooling Journey right after writing this post, and had to add it.  It looks like such a fun read, and would have gone so well with this lesson. 

This is a book I already had, and wish I had remembered when we did this lesson.  It has pictures of all sorts of houses (many per page), and covers topics like building material, daily life at home, doors and windows, etc...

Rock Art Activity

Another great activity I didn't try would be to make some rock art, maybe even look up and compare other ancient rock art around the world.   You could get actual rocks at a garden center to paint on, maybe even try out paints made out of different natural substances to see which would stay.   Or you could use these ideas....

"Rock Art" On Crumpled Paper

"Rock Art" On Faux Stone

More Books and Movies About Africa
These aren't necessarily related to this time period, but if your child is curious to learn more about Africa, here's a good place to start:

55 Books About Africa

15 Movies About Africa

Books about Africa 

Alternate graphic for linkies and sharing.... 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Cleaning Tip: Getting Baked on Greese Off Non-Stick Pans

Ever have oil from cookies, meats, or whatever you're cooking bake onto a "non-stick" pan.  ALL THE TIME, right?   I had flat out given up on getting that stuff off.  I just would just cover it over with tinfoil.  Well, some of the grease even was seeping under the tinfoil, and I tried this, and it worked!   It actually got off the cooked on grease (all of the grease that had just been cooked on once, and even a lot of the grease that had been cooked and recooked on).


1.  Rinse off pan with water (hot preferable).
2.  Sprinkle baking soda all over pan.  Let sit a few minutes.
3.  Get a sponge and soak it with vinegar.
4.  With the SOFT side of the sponge down, apply elbow grease (ie, scrub with pressure).   Some work is, unfortunately, necessary, but it's still easier than other methods I've tried.
5.  If an area is especially tricky, recoat with baking soda.   You may need to reapply vinegar to the sponge occasionally too.

This wasn't easy, but it was so much easier than just with soap and water.  Baking soda is slightly abrasive, so I can't guarantee no damage to the non-stickiness of your pan.  But I don't know another method that's any better.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Story of the World Ancient Times - Chap 10 - Chinese Pictograms and Rice Farming

Post contains an affiliate link, through which I can earn commission.

This blog post covers both "The Pictograms of Ancient China" and "Farming in Ancient China" from chapter 10 of Story of the World.

 The Pictograms of Ancient China

For this section we looked at some artifacts from the Shang dynasty in one of our library books (probably DK Ancient China, but I can't remember which one.)

We also looked at a picture of one the oracle bones with ancient Chinese pictographs...

Licenced by BabelStone under Creative Commons  

After reading we looked at a chart of different Chinese scripts through time (including these).  You can find a similar chart on this page under the section "Stages of Chines Writing."  I asked my son questions such as....

Why do you think the writing changed over time?

Which one is easiest to write...which one is hardest?

Which one would be easier to carve on something?

Which one would be easiest to write with a paint brush?

Farming in Ancient China

My child loved this story.  There is a wonderful illustration of it in the SOTW activity book.  I also showed my children some pictures of terraced rice fields....

Click Pictures to Enlarge

All of those pictures were from China (found on Pixabay), 
except the last with the boy carrying rice stalks, which is from another place).

You can also show your child a video of how rice is grown (that one is in Bali and shows some more modern, mechanized equipment.  If you want one that shows rice growing in China with mostly more traditional tools, here is one with a more traditional "documentary" feel.)

This post has been shared on The Homeschool Nook and Littles Learning Link-up.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Story of the World Ancient Times: Chap 10: Ancient China - Lei Zu and the Silkworm

Post contains some affiliate links, through which I can earn commission.

Below you will find our lesson and some helpful resources for the section on Lei Zu and the Silkworm in Chapter 10 of Story of the World.    You can see all my lessons and Story of the World resources here.

Paragraph 1 - 4:  The Yellow River Valley
(Paragraphs based on Revised edition)

We used the world map from Map Trek - Ancient Times (part of their free sample pages) to find all the places mentioned in paragraph 1-3.  He remembered quite a bit...and  it's nice seeing some recall finally kicking in.  All the repetition really helps.

At paragraph 4 we also stopped to look at some pictures of Chinese boats in the "Great Waterways" section in DK Ancient China (a book we found at our library).

If you are breaking up the section into smaller parts for younger learners, this is a good place in the chapter to stop and take a break.

Paragraph 5 - End of Section
When we read paragraph 5 about Huang Di we also stopped and looked at the page in DK Ancient China on "Health and Medicine", since Huang Di is said in legends to have discovered medicine.

It's important to note that there was more than one Huang Di...another, Shi Huangdi is talked about in chapter 32 of SOTW...he was the Huang Di who conceived of the Great Wall of China and had the terra cotta soldier's built.  So if you are looking for info online about Huang Di, you may also find info on him.

In stead of reading the story in the book about Lei Zu we read Silk Princess by Charles Santore.   This was a fun story, which my son enjoyed, and I loved the illustrations, but it added magic elements and changed the tale in other ways, such as moving the discovery to the princess in stead of the queen (which I had a little less problem with, since in the last pages it explained that in some ancient tales the discovery was attributed to Huang Di's daughter, not wife).   I sort of wish I had stuck with the story as told in Story of the World, or taken the time to find another picture book that left out magic and just stuck with the plain story.   It's not that I mind magic in folk tales, but there's so few stories of ancient inventors, and even less so of FEMALE ancient inventors, that I would have liked to leave more of this in the rhelm of the conceivable, than make it into just another fable. 

Here is a time lapse video of a silkworm making a cocoon (I've started it at minute can go back and also watch them munching leaves and such, but that may take too much time for most kiddos).  

Here's a picture of silkworms....

Generally in the making of silk the silkworms are killed before emerging as moths to prevent them from chewing through the pod, thus damaging the silk strands.  But if they are allowed to emerge, the moth looks like this....

Pictures from Pixabay


At our co-op we drank some Chinese tea together, and someone brought in actual silk worm pods for the kids to touch and play with.  Silk worm pods are used as a beauty product and as such can be ordered inexpensively online.

Depending on the season you can also sometimes actually buy silk worms online if you would like to watch the whole silk worm cocoon making process.

Color a silk worm and moth online.

Life Cycle of a Silk Worm


More graphics for pinning or sharing...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Free Online Spanish Resources For Kids

Learning resources for kids online....
Kids can learn Spanish with their free online tutorial with audio, cultural notes, grammar, vocabulary, verbs drills, games and links to helpful sites.

More for adults than kids, but I love the way this teaches.  I use it myself.

Mi Mundo en Palabras
A wonderful interactive site. This is completely in Spanish, but very engaging. Children who can not read/write yet will need assistance.

Videos in Spanish designed to teach kids.

Oh Noah! at PBS KIDS GO!
Short humorous videos to help teach Spanish.  There are teacher resources here.

Basho & Friends 
Videos and songs to help teach Spanish.

Perro y Gato
Videos to teach Spanish.  All are bilingual.   The dog or the cat repeats most of the things they say, so one says it in Spanish and one in English.

Spanish Games
Learn numbers and parts of the face.   Games are kinda old style but some might be helpful.

Spanish Hangman I
Spanish Hangman II
Just hangman in Spanish.  May be helpful for some older kids.  Both sites do similar things so I grouped them together.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017



My husband, was trying to teach them shading...he did the death star in the right.   My youngest copied it, but then half way through finished it as a bearded guy in stead of the death star, and my oldest added the mustache.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Resources Combining History and Science

Do you love combining History and Science?

The following are  resources I've found for integrating history with Science.   I've marked it by free and paid resources so you can easily tell those apart.  I'd love more suggestions to add to this list, so if you know of anything you think belongs here, please leave a comment about it!   Enjoy!

All resources will have one of the following graphics next to it.  Note that books are classified as a "paid resource" even though many can be borrowed free at your local library, and resources are classified as free even if they require free registration or subscription.  Experiments requiring supplies are only counted as "paid" if the supplies are part of a purchased kit. 

Free Resource

Paid Resource

Various/Mixed Eras
On This Day in Chemistry
Learn what chemistry discoveries happened on today's date in history.

The Chemistry of Pottery
Pottery is so widespread in history that this could cover various eras.

Ancient Times 

All of Ancient Times / Multiple Eras or Civilizations

CURRICULUM:  Science of the Ancient World 
Full 90 hours long Christian curriculum covering the scientific work of natural philosophers who lived from about 600 BC to the early AD 1500s.   It's marketed as K-6th but the lesson text length and complexity is more for, I'd say 2nd at earliest, and you could probably go through 8th easily).  There are free sample pages on the site. 

BOOK:  Ancient Science by Jim Wiese
Book for children age 8 -12 with fun science activities related to pre-history and the ancient civilizations of  Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, Aztecs, Mayans and Native North America. 

Pre-history/Stone Age/Nomadic

The Stone Age Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.

Cave Art - Various Activities
Various science activities related to cave art.

Dangers to Cave Art
Scroll to bottom for link to PDF of page.

Prehistoric Pigments


Make Plaster of Paris
Used since ancient UR


Science of Ancient Egypt
These units by Dr. Dave's science are crammed with info about science in ancient Egypt, with very kid friendly writing.  They come in various topics, from mummies to metals.  Age level 4th - 7th.

Nile River
Free sample of part of the Nile River unit by Dr. Daves Science.  Other units available for purchase here.

Nile Silt Activity
Just scroll down - activity is toward the bottom of the blog post.

Ancient Egypt Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.

Egyptian Mummies:  Egg Mummy Experiment

Egyptian Mummies:  Apple Mummy Experiment

Egyptian Mummies:  Chicken Mummy Experiment

VIDEO: Crash Course Kids - Following the Sun
Video talks about how ancient peoples used the sun to tell time (pictures Egyptians).

BOOK:  Technology in the Time of Ancient Egypt

Make Plaster of Paris
First used in Mesopotamia

Egyptian Art
A guide to ancient Egyptian art, with science vocab bolded. (Also in PDF form...scroll to bottom for link).

Egyptian Materials and Pigments
Scroll to bottom for link to PDF of page.

Making Paint with Minerals

Egyptian Blue (Chemistry of Color)
Scroll to bottom for link to PDF of page.

Conservation of Egyptian Art
Scroll to bottom for link to PDF of page. 


Restoration of Minoan Artwork

Ancient Greece Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.

Ancient Greece + Earth and Space Science
This is an outline I made of how we combined our Story of the World lessons on the history of ancient Greece with a study of Earth Science and Space Science.  Could be used by those not using SOTW just by looking at the topics covered.

BOOK:  Technology in the Time of Ancient Greece

BOOK:  Classical Kids
This book is not primarily about science, but among it's many activities has a few really good ones on Greek scientists, presented excellently for younger kids.

Greek Architecture STEM Activity

Greek Art Techniques and Pigments
Scroll to bottom for link to PDF of page.

Science of the Ancient World - SAMPLE PAGES
The free sample pages for this curriculum cover several scientists from ancient Greece and their discoveries.

Roman Empire

Ancient Romans Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages. 

Making Verdigris Copper
Copper and copper alloys like bronze will corrode with long exposure to the air.  When it corrodes the copper takes on a blue-green colour. The Greeks and Romans deliberately corroded copper to make a pigment called verdigris.

Make Concrete
Invented during Roman Empire.

Making Invisible Ink
Ovid (43 BCE-17/18 CE), a Roman poet wrote about invisable ink in 18BCE

Roman Glass and It's Chemistry
Scroll to bottom for link to PDF of page.

Roman Commerce in Pigments

BOOK:  Technology in the Time of Ancient Rome

BOOK:  Classical Kids
This book is not primarily about science, but among it's many activities has a some good activities involving Roman inventions.

Because south and central American regions are generally studied along with Spanish conquest, links for Mayas, Incas, Aztecs and others will be listed under Middle Ages to Early Renaissance below.

Middle Ages to Early Renaissance
Aprox 400-1600

All of Middle Ages / Multiple Eras or Areas

CURRICULUM:  Science of the Ancient World
Full 90 hours long Christian curriculum covering the scientific work of natural philosophers who lived from about 600 BC to the early AD 1500s.   It's marketed as K-6th but the lesson text length and complexity is more for, I'd say 2nd at earliest, and you could probably go through 8th easily).  There are free sample pages on the site.


Experiment With the Vikings
A 57 page unit study combining a Viking narrative with various experiements and activities to show the science behind Viking history.

Viking Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.  

BOOK:  Technology in the time of the Vikings

Medieval Chemistry

Making Medieval Ink


The Tudors Idea Web 
Ideas for science integration for various ages.

Making Invisible Ink
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), used invisible ink and ciphers to communicate with Catholic supporters.

Make Plaster of Paris
Used to make frescos

Making Paint With Minerals

Middle East

Golden age of Islam Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.


Aztecs and Mayas Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.

BOOK:  Technology in the Time of the Maya

BOOK:  Technology in the Time of the Aztecs

Early Modern Period

The Victorian Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.

Mercury Poisoning and the Origin of the Phrase "Mad as a Hatter"

Making Blueprint Paper
Blueprints use the cyanotype process invented by the astronomer John Herschel in 1842

Herschel Infrared Experiement

Late Modern Period to Contemporary Times 
(1850 - NOW)

WWII Idea Web
Ideas for science integration for various ages.

Making Invisible Ink
Invisable ink was used by secret agents in WWII

Square Graphic for Sharing